What makes life at Maxwell all the more exciting for me is knowing how well-connected the school is with the field the students are studying and actively pursuing. You never know when a renowned and high-ranking public servant might pop into Maxwell for a surprise visit.
Well, that’s exactly what happened this past Monday afternoon. U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, who represents New York state, held an impromptu press conference at our Maxwell atrium about the nation’s rising debt for college graduates. His press conference about the Reducing Educational Debt (RED) Act tackles the issue of college affordability, and is part of the #InTheRed national campaign. There are four main prongs to the proposed legislation: it would reduce the cost of loans and allow students to borrow at a lower interest rate; it would make the first two years of community college free; it would increase funding for Pell grants and provide more opportunities for low-income students; and it would slow down rising college tuition rates.
The RED Act seeks to minimize the amount of money the government receives from students taking out loans. The Senator shared that while banks are charged an interest rate of 3%, student loans incur the second highest government interest rate at over 8%. The interest rate for student loans comes in above automobile and credit card interest rates. Currently, over 60% of students graduate from college in debt; the majority of students from New York institutions graduate with an average debt of $28,000.
Schumer believes that the pressure for the millennial generation to go to college has increased compared to his generation; he also believes it is more difficult for the younger generation to get jobs and pay back student loans. “These days college is a necessity, but it is priced like a luxury,” he articulated.
Regardless of political ideology, it was remarkable that a U.S. Senator took the time out of his day to speak in such an intimate setting with Maxwell students. He even took the time to answer my peers’ questions and take pictures with us. We found out that one of the students present went to his rival high school in Brooklyn, New York.
As an institution focused on citizenship and public affairs, there was no better way of provoking citizen engagement than having a prominent public official encourage us to get involved with the #InTheRed campaign. I am grateful for this opportunity that Maxwell has given to me, and would not be surprised if another distinguished leader in the field of public affairs stopped by Maxwell to connect with students.
Senator Schumer will be succeeding Nevada Senator Harry Reid as the U.S. Senate’s Minority Leader next January.
Click here for more information about the #InTheRed campaign.
As a prospective applicant, you might be wondering about the work-social life balance in graduate school.
When I was deciding which MPA/MPP program to attend this past spring, I was concerned that everything in grad school would only revolve around academics for me and my classmates. However, I was proven wrong when I found out just how outgoing and social my cohort of future policymakers and public servants could be. Even in the midst of final exams, many students in our cohort found time to attend our Ugly Sweater holiday party at World Lounge this past Friday evening.
Some of the sweaters included an ugly reindeer, an ugly walrus, and a Hanukah menorah. Some were even homemade, such as a “Blue Christmas”-themed sweater with three cutouts of Elvis’ face. Some people even went as twins! (Kurt Fire and I inadvertently purchased the same orange Syracuse sweater from the university bookstore and wore it to the event.)
The holiday festivities included a Secret Elf gift exchange, where we shared individualized holiday gifts among our classmates. I was assigned to get a gift for Melissa Horste (MPA & MAIR dual student) who is an avid cat and knitting enthusiast. I decided to get her a photo frame with a picture of, you guess it, a cat knitting a sweater! Melissa joked that her cat Pebbles would get jealous when he sees the framed orange tabby.
Some of the other gifts included a New York Giants cap signed by Maxwell Professor Bob Bifulco and holiday candles. My Secret Elf, Charlene Cordero (MPA & MAIR dual student) knows of my love for Insomnia Cookies so she got me a Cookie Monster puppet.
Overall, I’m glad that in our program, Maxwell students knows how to work hard and also find time to socialize. From potluck dinners to intramural soccer to our spring formal, our Mafia cohort community makes an effort to be together.
From our Maxwell Mafia family to yours, happy holidays!